HASTUR THE KING IN YELLOW
There was not a soul in the park as I passed among the trees and took the walk which leads from the Garibaldi statue to the Hamilton Apartment House, but as I passed the churchyard I saw a fgure sitting on the stone steps. In spite of myself, a chill crept over me at the sight of the white puffy face, and I hastened to pass. Then he said something which might have been addressed to me or might merely have been a mutter to himself, but a sudden furious anger ﬂamed up within me that such a creature should address me...
It flled my head, that muttering sound, like thick oily smoke from a fat-rendering vat or an odour of noisome decay... “Have you found the Yellow Sign?” “Have you found the Yellow Sign?” “Have you found the Yellow Sign?” —Robert W. Chambers, “The Yellow Sign” . Camilla: You, sir, should unmask
Stranger: Indeed? Cassilda: Indeed it’s time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrifed, aside to Cassild.a) No mask? No mask! —The King in Yellow, Act I, Scene 2. Humanity exists on countless worlds throughout the universe, yet despite it being spread across disparate planets, the works of this fecund race are but shadows and ﬂeeting gasps for air compared to those of the true heirs of reality. According to ancient legends and whispered myths, the human civilization that frst made contact with Hastur existed long before humanity eventually rose on Golarion. In a distant time on a distant world whose name has been long forgotten, three great cities ruled from three diﬀerent shores of the vast lake of Hali. The frst of the cities was Yhtill, a place ruled by and for the aristocracy, where anyone and everyone could and did revel in the hedonistic and decadent life of the rich. The second of the cities was Alar, home to anarchists bound together in shared jealousy of Yhtill’s wealth.
The third and fnal was Carcosa, the empty city, built by unknown hands and abandoned by all. Carcosa was old and in ruins before people laid the frst foundations of Alar or Yhtill alike, and those few who visited Carcosa’s empty streets returned mad, distraught, and prone to selfdestruction—if they returned at all.
The people of Alar coveted the wealth and comforts of the people of Yhtill, yet they could do little to earn or take from Yhtill what they desired.
And so, one day long ago, the armies of Alar besieged the empty city of Carcosa, hoping to harness whatever source of power that so fully emptied minds and ruined souls. By the next morning, the city of Alar and its population had vanished without a trace.
When news of Alar’s vanishing reached Yhtill, the decadents of that city took note, yet they did not concern themselves overmuch with the event. If anything, the people of Yhtill rested easier knowing that their potential enemies had disappeared. Time passed, and memories of Alar and Carcosa faded. As the people of Yhtill grew more hedonistic, and all but the most eccentric or erudite of their scholars forgot the legends of Yhtill’s sister cities, the city’s rulers fought and schemed for control of civilization. Then, during a masked ball thrown by Queen Cassilda in an attempt to secure her rule, a stranger appeared wearing a pallid mask. The stranger revealed to the queen that he wore no mask and had come to announce the end of Yhtill’s dynasty. Madness quickly swept through Yhtill, and with the dawn Yhtill vanished as well. Only the ghost city of Carcosa remained.
It is unknown whether the tale of the three cities of Hali and the menace of Carcosa is true; what is known is that Carcosa does exist. It continues to feed on and consume cities throughout the universe. And its lord, the one who wears no mask, is a very real threat indeed.
Game statistics for Hastur in his incarnation as the King in Yellow appear on pages 140–141 of Pathfnder RPG Bestiary 4.
PERSONIFICATION AND REALM
As with many of the Great Old Ones, Hastur is imprisoned on a distant world.
Yet unlike most of the bound Great Old Ones, Hastur can manifest an avatar on other worlds as long as the light from the strange star in the sky of his prison-world shines upon the targeted portion of the second world.
He requires the assistance of powerful magic to manifest this avatar, known as the King in Yellow, but such magic need not be consciously wrought.
None know for certain what Hastur looks like, for the Great Old One has been imprisoned far longer than mortal life has existed. His manifestation as the King in Yellow is a man-shaped fgure draped in tatters of yellow cloth and saﬀron robes, yet nothing of what hides beneath these robes can be seen except in nightmarish glimpses by the truly unfortunate. When Hastur does manifest in a world as the King in Yellow, it is always on the cusp of a signifcant city’s fall to Carcos.a A visitation from the King in Yellow doesn’t guarantee such a fall, however, and the actions of heroes or martyrs can prevent such a doom from snatching away a portion of a world—for a time, at least, until Carcosa’s attention is once again drawn to the world in question.
Whether Hastur dwells within the alien city of Carcosa, beneath that city in its deep and haunted sewers, or in the depths of Lake Hali is as unclear as Hastur’s current state. Most texts indicate that the Great Old One is imprisoned, yet his ability to manifest his avatar with relative ease indicates that the boundaries of his jail are not well guarded. Perhaps the most disturbing myth regarding Hastur’s prison holds that it is more akin to a cocoon, with the city of Carcosa acting as the physical manifestation of this cocoon’s outer shell. As Carcosa continues to draw civilizations into itself, it grows in size, as does Hastur’s realm. At some point, when the stars are right, this cocoon will burst and Hastur will emerge, fully free and transformed from mere Great Old One into the newest Outer God of the Elder Mythos. The expanded powers and inﬂuence such an entity would have are beyond the scope of this article, but such an event would surely come at a signifcant cost to the sanity of countless worlds.
Hastur is chaotic evil and his areas of concern are decadence, disorder, and nihilism. The favored weapon of his cult is the rapier. His domains are Chaos, Evil, Rune, and Void, and his subdomains are Dark Tapestry, Language, Stars, and Wards. His priests are primarily bards, clerics, oracles, and sorcerers.
DOGMA AND WORSHIPERS
The extreme age of Hastur’s cult, which existed for millennia on many thousands of worlds before it came to Golarion, carries with it traditions that date back to ancient times. Yet these customs have remained curiously stagnant over the passage of the eons. While Hastur does not actively seek new worshipers, neither does he actively dissuade those who become obsessed with him. Many of the traditions honored and followed by the cult of Hastur are self-made, with the cult’s reverence for Hastur’s name being the most widely known. None who worship Hastur speak the name aloud if they can avoid it, calling him instead various epithets such as “Him Who is Not to be Named,” or “The Unspeakable,” or “The King in Yellow.” They also associate him with the three cities of Hali, with Carcosa representing Hastur’s nihilism, Alar representing the disorder his teachings encourage, and Yhtill symbolizing the decadence in which his worshipers wallow. His worshipers even sometimes regard him as a patron of shepherds, in that the bulk of humanity is but a ﬂock of sheep to be gathered for an unknown future use.
His cultists are masters of subtle enchantments and hidden sorceries that can trick unsuspecting victims into opening the way for the King in Yellow. Hastur’s symbol, the notorious Yellow Sign, is ofen used in conjunction with such magic, and those who fnd the Yellow Sign may become doomed to host the King in Yellow in their own minds and ﬂesh, slowly transforming into eldritch agents of Him Who is Not to be Named.
Worship of Hastur is spread throughout the Inner Sea region, but is typically confned to a single extended family in any one are.a The Ustalavic county of Versex, certain cities in Galt, Taldor, and Razmiran, and the cosmopolitan city of Quantium in Nex are the most likely places one might encounter worship of the King in Yellow, but his faithful can be found even in relatively remote locales such as Brevoy’s Restov, Thuvia’s Lamasara, and Varisia’s Riddleport. Keeping the cult’s existence secret is paramount among the faithful, and those who learn of a cult cell’s presence ofen fnd themselves hunted by an increasing number of assassins, monstrous conjurations, and worse. In most cases, cells of Hastur worshipers feign being academic or political secret societies, and some who join such groups are not initially aware of the cult’s true nature. Only those who ascend to the society’s innermost circles ever learn the real goals of the group to which they have belonged, and at the point such revelations occur, those who balk at the truth invariably fnd themselves sacrifced to the King in Yellow at the earliest opportunity thereafer.
There exists another type of worshiper of Hastur, though—the lone lunatic. While many of Hastur’s faithful are members of high society, there are those who dwell on the fringes, whether they’re hermits who live in distant wilds or deviant recluses who live in the heart of a city yet keep their aﬀairs strictly private. These individuals are no less destructive, for in many cases, they view humanity as sheep to prey upon, and think of themselves as shepherds with the right to determine who lives and who dies. Murderers and worse, these demented loners might not even fully comprehend that they serve the King in Yellow, but the damage they can do to society can be signifcant nonetheless.
TEMPLES AND SHRINES
Hastur’s worshipers tend not to build cathedrals or temples to worship the Great Old One, instead venerating him in their own manors and estates during galas, masked balls, orgies, and other decadent festivities.
Public halls for performances or concerts may fnd themselves unknowingly hosting worship of Hastur, for his followers are nothing if not cunning in hiding the true nature of their faith. In wilderness areas where Hastur’s inﬂuence is strong, less-civilized worshipers raise towering rocks into stelae, ofen in triangular or V-shaped patterns inscribed with runes and sigils in Aklo to aid in the observation of a particular star in the sky—the distant red star around which the nameless planet holding Hastur orbits.
CUSTOMIZED SUMMON LIST
As rewards for their servitude, priests of Hastur can use summon monster spells to summon the following creatures in addition to the normal creatures listed in the spells.
Summon Monster IV.
Byakhee (see pages 82–83).
Summon Monster V.
Keeper of the Yellow Sign (see pages 88–89) .
A PRIEST’S ROLE
The priest of Hastur is charged with, above all else, keeping secret the actions and identities of those who worship The Unspeakable. Many priests focus much of their time on developing hidden identities or masking the true nature of their worship, and may even maintain an outward facade of worship of deities such as Abadar or Dispater (Aroden was another popular choice until his death). Worship of Razmir is also a favorite pretense, and the cult has had much success in infltrating parts of this nation’s state religion. The majority of these priests are clerics, although many use archetypes such as hidden priest (Pathfnder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Magic 35) to disguise their true natures.
Beyond clerics, many of Hastur’s priests are rogues, swashbucklers, and vigilantes. The ability to cast divine CUSTOMIZED SUMMON LIST As rewards for their servitude, priests of Hastur can use summon monster spells to summon the following creatures in addition to the normal creatures listed in the spells.
Summon Monster IV Byakhee (see pages 82–83) Summon Monster V Keeper of the Yellow Sign (see pages 88–89) spells is hardly a requirement for one who pursues a life of decadent hedonism or bleak ennui, but among vigilantes the zealot archetype (Pathfnder RPG Ultimate Intrigue 62) is quite popular. Inquisitors are uncommon among the faithful, but those who do exist are less involved in seeking out and fghting the church’s enemies than they are in scouting areas where the cult or the Yellow Sign might take root. When an inquisitor of Hastur fnds such a promising site, she seeks to eradicate or, at the very least, weaken potential opposition to infection before calling in more powerful agents of the church to begin the act of marking a city for Carcosa.
Bards play a special and key role among the priesthood, for they are the most capable of spreading Hastur’s word and the attention of Carcosa through the perpetuation of the play known as The King in Yellow. While anyone can attempt a performance of this dangerous play, bards are singularly gifed at the task and can rise to great heights in the faith as a result.
The cult of Hastur follows no set holidays, but delights in revelry of all sorts, ofen co-opting other religious events and festivals as covers for their own bacchanals.
While the church does not venerate any signifcant days of their own, seasons in which the light of his distant world’s star shines in the night sky are believed particularly fortuitous for the pursuit of cult goals. In the Inner Sea region, these nights takes place during the months of Neth through Pharast.
Hastur’s worshipers revel in the rejection of typical religious and moral principles and seek pleasure in ever-increasing complexities. They enjoy inducting new worshipers by tempting them with oﬀers of pleasure or promises of revelation.
Have you found the Yellow Sign? The Yellow Sign is the symbol of the cult of Hastur, but even when not truly empowered by the Great Old One or the magic of his most powerful worshipers, this three-armed triskelion intrigues and compels. By daring seekers of delight with the task of fnding the Yellow Sign, the cult can lead a potential worshiper into an ever-increasing spiral of self-indulgence until the seeker has shed unneeded beliefs and is ready to become a devotee of the King in Yellow.
Although many ancient and blasphemous texts, such as the Necronomicon or the Pnakotic Manuscripts, speak of Hastur and are of great interest to scholars and worshipers alike, one text stands above all others in its value and signifcance to Hastur’s cult—The King in Yellow. The contents of this book appear at frst glance to be nothing more than a play that dramatizes the fnal days of the city of Yhtill, yet within and beneath the words of the play are the whispers of Hastur himself.
Those who read The King in Yellow expose themselves to the Yellow Sign and Hastur’s inﬂuence. And when the play is performed, the city unfortunate enough to host the performance comes to the attention of Carcosa itself—and in most cases, it is soon thereafer absorbed by the parasitic city. Authorship of The King in Yellow is a confusing subject, for on all the worlds where the play exists, the identity of its author and the timing of its creation vary, as if the words of the play predated the play itself, and manifest in the minds of those destined to reveal them to their world.
A HISTORY OF HASTUR
Hastur has had a complex development over the course of the last 125 years, when he was frst invented by Ambrose Bierce in his short story “Haïta the Shepherd” in 1891. Since that time, other authors (particularly Robert W. Chambers and August Derleth, but also, of course, H.P. Lovecraft) have built upon the “Hastur Mythology.” Over the years, Hastur appeared in print as a god of shepherds, a city, a mysterious traveler, a symbol, and, of course, as a Great Old One. These stories all add to the Hastur Mythology and help create something that is disorganized, disturbing, and greater than the sum of its parts—a ftting result, considering Hastur’s nature.
The version of Hastur in this article and throughout the entirety of the Strange Aeons Adventure Path has been tailored, adjusted, and expanded specifcally for use in the Pathfnder RPG, but it also strives to incorporate much of what has come before. It is not intended to be the last word on such a complex topic—Hastur has been haunting fction for over a century, and all signs suggest he shall do so for many more.
If you’re interested in immersing yourself in more lore related to Hastur, the Yellow Sign, and Carcosa, seek out the writings of Robert W. Chambers (all of the King in Yellow stories), Ambrose Bierce (“Haïta the Shepherd” and “An Inhabitant of Carcosa”), August Derleth (notably “The Return of Hastur”), Stephen King’s short story “Gramma,” the frst season of the HBO series True Detective, and Call of Cthulhu supplements published by Chaosium (particularly The Great Old Ones, Tatters of the King, and Ripples From Carcosa). Of course, not all of these will appeal to every reader equally, but they all helped build Hastur into the genre-transcending force he is today. RELATIONS WITH OTHER RELIGIONS The cult of Hastur has little interest in interacting with other religions for the most part. Worshipers of Hastur are self-centered and prefer to seek their own hedonistic pursuits or wallow in the nothingness of ennui and nihilism, and neither preference encourages interaction with those outside of their immediate circle. In most cases, such interactions occur only when the actions of Hastur worshipers impact other religions, whose members are forced to take action against the cult. The worshipers of Shub-Niggurath are a notable exception; fables hold that Hastur and Shub-Niggurath have at times been mates, and orgiastic rituals between the two faiths are not uncommon. The church of Groetus has some workings with the cult of Hastur, as well, although these tend to arise out of a grudging respect for their shared views on nihilism and rarely result in longterm alliances. While many of Golarion’s faiths oppose the teachings of Hastur when they learn of them, only the church of Desna actively fghts against the cult. Of course, when it comes to the attention of other cults that a local worshiper of Hastur has been masquerading as one of its faithful, the oﬀended church spares no expense in fghting the cult of the King in Yellow.
Clerics of Hastur can prepare confusion as a 4th-level spell and insanity as a 7th-level spell. His priests also have access to the following spell.
School enchantment (compulsion) [mind-affecting]; Level bard 6, cleric 9, sorcerer/wizard 9, witch 9 Casting Time 10 minutes Components V, S, M (ochre and sulfur, plus powdered gold worth a total of 15,000 gp) Range 0 ft.; see text Effect one symbol Duration see text Saving Throw Will negates; Spell Resistance yes This spell functions as per symbol of death, save that creatures that succumb to this spell become dominated (as per dominate monster) by Hastur. This causes such creatures to seek to aid any obvious minions or worshipers of Hastur in sight, and any true worshiper of Hastur can command the affected creatures as if that worshiper had been the one to dominate them. In the case of conﬂicting commands issued from different true worshipers of Hastur, the commanders must attempt opposed Charisma checks, with the winner being able to command the targets for that round. If no worshipers or agents of Hastur are in sight, an affected creature can act normally. When affected by this spell’s Yellow Sign in this way, the effects last for 1 round per level.
Once triggered, the Yellow Sign remains active for 10 minutes per caster level.
There is a 1% chance when a creature fails its saving throw against this spell that Hastur takes note and, for reasons of his own, decides to control the target personally. In this case, the actions taken by the dominated creature are left to the GM to determine, but the effects of this spell’s Yellow Sign persist for 1 day per level and the commands issued cannot be countermanded by any other creature, even if they are Hastur worshipers.
Regardless of how long the effects last or whether Hastur directly controls a victim, if a creature failed to resist this spell’s effects, Hastur can target that victim for the rest of its life with his fulvous dreams ability (Pathfnder RPG Bestiary 4 140). Whether or not the Great Old One ever chooses to do so is left to the GM to determine.
Yellow Sign can be made permanent with a permanency spell by a caster of 18th level or higher for the cost of 40,000 gp.
The following describes the ritual a worshiper of Hastur must perform to take full advantage of the Deifc Obedience feat, as well as the boons for the evangelist, exalted, and sentinel prestige classes found in Pathfnder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Gods.
Spend an hour in absolute stillness, meditating in an area surrounded by rich furnishings and dressed in elegant and expensive clothing and jewelry. The total combined value of your clothing and the furnishings of the area within 30 feet of your meditation spot must be at least 1,000 gp per character level (magical items do not count in determining the overall value of your surroundings unless they are particularly ornate, in which case only the value over and above the item’s normal cost counts).
Alternatively, you can perform this obedience in the presence of an active Yellow Sign. If you know them, you must silently recite lines from The King In Yellow as you meditate— otherwise, you can simply concentrate on nothingness. You gain a +4 profane bonus on all Perform checks.
EVANGELIST BOONS 1: Words of Disorder (Sp) lesser confusion 3/day, hideous laughter 2/day, or rage 1/day 2: Confusion Command (Su) As a swift action, you can issue a verbal command to a single creature within 30 feet that is currently suffering from a confusion effect or a similar effect. This allows you to choose how that creature is affected on its turn that round.
3: Yellow Sign (Sp) You gain the ability to cast Yellow Sign once per day as a spell-like ability.
EXALTED BOONS 1: Decadent Grace (Sp) disguise self 3/day, eagle’s splendor 2/day, or glibness 1/day 2: No Mask! (Su) You gain the change shape (alter self, any humanoid of your size) ability, which is usable once per day. Transforming back to your true form is a free action, but as you do so, the unsettling effect of this change causes all creatures within 20 feet to become shaken for 1d4 rounds if they fail a Will saving throw (DC = 10 + your Wisdom modifer + 1/2 your Hit Dice). If you make an initiative check in the same round that you assume your true form, you gain a +4 bonus on the initiative check.
3: Hedonist (Su) As long as you wear fne clothing and jewelry worth at least 500 gp per character level (magic items do not count in determining this value), you gain a deﬂection bonus to your Armor Class equal to your Charisma modifer. This ability doesn’t function if you wear armor or carry a shield (including items that grant armor or shield bonuses).
SENTINEL BOONS 1: All Things Must End (Sp) doom 3/day, death knell 2/day, or bestow curse 1/day 2: Impossible Mind (Ex) You are immune to confusion and insanity effects, save those created by Hastur or worshipers and servants of Hastur who have more Hit Dice than you.
3: Nihilist (Ex) You are immune to death and petrifcation effects. In addition, once per day if you are targeted by a death or petrifcation effect of any level that targets you alone, you can choose to reﬂect that death effect back on its source as per spell turning. 
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